It was the first Saturday of the Keeneland Spring Meet, but a nice crowd gathered at the Nutter Training Facility for Kentucky's first full pad practice of the spring.
Part of the crowd was for Junior Day, as the Wildcats hosted around 40 recruits and their families, showing them the facilities and giving them the opportunity to take in practice. UK Coach Rich Brooks said he was pleased with the energy and effort from the workout.
Several other observations from Saturday's practice:
■ Rich Brooks said quarterback Mike Hartline has gained about 10 pounds since the end of last season. But Hartline still needs work on his downfield passing, as several of his deep throws hung in the air.
"The only thing I'm disappointed in at this point is the deep ball," Brooks said. "He's got to throw a more accurate and better deep ball. He's doing a good job with the other stuff."
■ The Wildcats might have found a keeper in redshirt freshman running back Coshik Williams. Williams, listed at 5-feet-9, 173 pounds, showed off several nice moves and the ability to turn the corner during Saturday's practice. Williams played at Hiram (Ga.) High School, the same school that produced All-SEC cornerback Trevard Lindley. Offensive coordinator Joker Phillips said Lindley's younger brother gave him a DVD of Williams at a UK practice a couple of years ago, and the staff invited him to walk on. With depth potentially being an issue at running back this fall, the coaches believe Williams could play his way into the rotation.
"He's got a chance, a serious chance," Brooks said.
Newton in attendance
UK quarterback recruit Morgan Newton was in town this weekend and attended Friday and Saturday's practice. Newton will be on spring break next week but plans on attending the final two weekends of the Cats' spring drills. Newton has already been given the playbook and is in the process of familiarizing himself with the offense, something that both Rich Brooks and Joker Phillips believe will be an asset once fall camp begins. Newton will start summer school in June.
"He's just going to be that much more ahead when he gets here for summer school," Brooks said. "He'll have it all learned mentally by the time he gets here, so he'll be ahead."
Phillips said he's already noticed that Newton has the intangibles that you look for in a big-time QB.
"The guy carries himself like he wants to be a big-time player, and he carries himself with a lot of confidence," Phillips said. "That's what you look for in a quarterback. He's got bright eyes. I'm just excited to have him in here and for him to be around everything."
Warford breaks foot
Junior cornerback Paul Warford will miss the remainder of the spring after breaking his foot on the first day of practice on Wednesday. Warford returned to the team this semester after missing the 2008 season for academic reasons. A veteran with 14 career starts, he will be looked upon to provide stability opposite Trevard Lindley. Sophomore-to-be Randall Burden and redshirt freshman Cartier Rice have been getting most of the action at the open corner spot.
No coaching adjustments
Rich Brooks was able to retain his entire staff from last season, which has been a big help during the first week of spring.
"We've had pretty good carryover the last four or five years, and this year's even better," Brooks said. "It makes a difference in the consistency and everybody knowing what you're doing and on the same page. Players are understanding what's expected of them better than even some of the past teams have."
Crawford getting feet wet
Junior-college defensive tackle Mark Crawford, a December signee, is getting himself acclimated to Division I-A college football. The 6-foot-1, 295-pounder, who has three years of eligibility, is wearing No. 98, Myron Pryor's old number. Crawford will be counted on to help fill the void left by Pryor, who's expected to be a mid-round selection in the upcoming NFL Draft.
"He's going to help us," defensive coordinator Steve Brown said of Crawford. "He's a guy who gives phenomenal effort. A lot of times coming from a junior college you have some things technique-wise you have to work on. But he plays with a lot of desire and a lot of speed, so we can polish up the technique and get him a better understanding of what we're doing and he'll be a great addition to our team."